Christian Marcussen is a name I associate with Sid Meier, and not only because both of his published games, Merchants & Marauders and Clash of Cultures, could be described as adaptations of Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Sid Meier’s Civilization. More than that, it’s because Marcussen has a way of taking big ideas and making them… well, still big, since both games are long-winded, but more compressed, more digestible. More distilled.
Clash of Cultures in particular is one of the finest portrayals of the rise, rise, rise, and earthquakes that beset ancient civilizations. It now has a Monumental Edition from WizKids that preserves all the highs the lows of the original game and its impossible-to-find expansion — and, in some cases, smooths out the original’s rougher corners.
The original Clash of Cultures was easily one of the best Civilization-style 4X games I’ve ever played, and was one of my favorite games from last year — despite three major problems:
1. There were no elephants.
2. The yellow miniatures were trapped in a state of perpetual melting (though this was rectified in later printings).
3. Really, not a single elephant to be found anywhere. The box showed elephants. So where were the elephants?
The thing is, I don’t really like Sid Meier’s Civilization series. I can see the appeal — crud, half the game’s bullet points sound like they were plagiarized straight out of the “This Should Appeal to Dan” playbook. But for whatever reason each Civ experience leaves me wondering what part of my soul is missing and wanting my thirty dollars back. So I was greatly surprised when I genuinely liked the board game version (this one). I didn’t play it too many times because it had some problems, most notably a very long playtime, but it still captured a lot of the things I liked about the Civilization series.
Now I’ve found a Civilization-type game that I love, courtesy of Z-Man Games and Christian Marcussen, designer of the marvelous (so I’m told) Merchants & Marauders. It’s called Clash of Cultures, and it’s one of the best things I’ve played all year. And I don’t mean that as a joke, considering it’s only the eleventh day of the year, I mean from the entire previous year. Find out why below.